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Virtual Golden Bridges conference attracts record numbers

23 November 2020
The 12th Golden Bridges Conference and Awards ceremony took place this week and was held virtually for the first time in its history. Delegates taking part heard at first-hand how political leaders, business and community representatives and education providers from Ireland North West and Boston in the United States, have been collaborating to share experiences of dealing with the COVID pandemic and preparing for Brexit.
 
The Conference, which saw over 500 registrations from all over the world, gave an interesting insight into how those living and working in the border region of Derry, Strabane and Donegal are working in partnership to prepare for Brexit, despite the additional challenges of COVID.
 
The transatlantic conference, which was hosted virtually from the historic Guildhall in Derry, featured a wide range of influential speakers and delegates from the US and Ireland, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, The Tanaiste and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue and Seagate CEO Dave Mosley.
 
The challenges faced by the Ireland NW region in dealing with the current pandemic was a predominate feature of the conference with inputs and views from various community, cultural and commercial sector representatives from both sides of the Atlantic.
 
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney thanking everyone for taking part said it was a huge success and a fantastic way of reconnecting with each other. He said that while it was disappointing that he couldn’t travel to attend the conference in person, the virtual conference was hugely successful in engaging with people in the United States who have an interest in how Ireland NorthWest is preparing for the challenges Brexit.
 
He said it was a privilege to be part of the conference and to showcase the huge level of work that is being done to forge valuable business connections and augment the strong network of partnerships that have been in place between the North West region and Boston and Philadelphia in the US.
“I really enjoyed being part of it and felt it was hugely beneficial to everyone who took part. Not only did it provide us with a unique opportunity to highlight the positive work being done in both regions but it gave us a valuable insight into how we can progress our ambitions for the NW region. I am confident that we can continue to work in close collaboration with our transatlantic partners to share ideas and contacts and work towards a better future as we strive to recover from the current economic climate."
 
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Rena Donaghey, said she was deeply honoured to represent Donegal County Council at the Conference and extended a huge thanks to everyone who took part and who registered to attend. She said the event was a great success in demonstrating the strong strategic links and friendships that exist between the transatlantic partners.
 
She said: “I was delighted to see so many people signing up to hear the fantastic range of speakers and contributors to the event. It was a very interesting conference that covered all aspects of life from education and skills development, to trade, investment and business. It provided us with a fantastic forum to showcase our resilience and positivity for the future. But more importantly the conference was an excellent opportunity for us to re-engage with our American business and political influencers and to further extend our connections so that we can continue with the positive relationships to explore economic development opportunities for all of us."
 
She added that in promoting Ireland North West as an excellent place for investment, the region’s superb quality of life for those living, working and studying in Ireland North West was a very strong selling point in addition to its  cultural compatibility and accessibility to business support programmes.
 
“The conference really showcased our region’s strong attributes and our very positive links with our educational, political, cultural and diaspora connections in the US, and how by working together we can realise the potential of Ireland North West region. While it is disappointing that we could not meet in person, the virtual conference was really excellent in allowing us to re-engage with our colleagues and partners across the Atlantic and further cement those important relationships for the future.
 
A key element of the conference is the Luncheon Awards ceremony that recognises those in the US who are doing great work to keep strong relationships and connections with Ireland. Among the winners at this year’s events were – Congressman Brendan Boyle; Kathy Savage (David Burke Award); Steve Burke, Irish Cultural Centre; Prof Christine Kinealy; Grace Cotter Regan, President of the Boston College High School; Senator Nick Collins, Massachusetts State Senate; Councilman Frank Baker, Boston City Council; Pádraic McLaughlin, Buncrana and Boston GAA; Mark Porter, Buncrana and Boston businessman and director of the Irish Pastoral Centre, Boston Cancer Fundraising and Connemare Gaels; Joseph Burke, Dep Sec of the Office of International Business Development, Pennsylvania.
 
The event was jointly coordinated by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council. The Golden Bridges is held annually in Boston but was held this year virtually from Derry’s Guildhall. The conference aims to promote partnerships between Ireland Northwest and Boston, Massachusetts and also to highlight various community, business, and education initiatives in the two regions by bringing together influential business and political leaders.
 
For members of the public who weren’t able to attend on the day – they can watch back via the following link – www.aisling-events.com